Wife of missing Hong Kong bookseller visits him on mainland

EU steps up rhetoric against China after nationals paraded on television

Placards showing missing bookseller Lee Bo (left) and his associate Gui Minhai (right)  outside the China liaison office in Hong Kong. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Placards showing missing bookseller Lee Bo (left) and his associate Gui Minhai (right) outside the China liaison office in Hong Kong. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

 

The wife of missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo, who vanished last month and was believed to have been taken across the border by Chinese security officials, has met her husband at a guesthouse on the mainland.

Mr Lee (65) and four of his associates – who work for the Roaring Currents publishers and Causeway Bay bookshop that specialises in titles that contain political gossip and salacious news about Communist Party officials, have all disappeared in mysterious circumstances over the last three months.

Mr Lee’s disappearance has led to growing unease in Hong Kong that the city’s cherished freedoms are being worn down and that Beijing was breaching the one-country, two-systems policy, Hong Kong’s Basic Law, or mini-constitution, and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which provided for the handover of power in 1997.

In a statement, Hong Kong police said Mr Lee was healthy and assisting an investigation as a witness, quoting his wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping.

Mr Lee reportedly gave his wife a letter addressed to the Hong Kong police with content similar to his previous letters, having earlier filed a missing persons report after he vanished without his passport.

“I have not been kidnapped and definitely have not been arrested . . . I have already met with my wife. Over here I am free and safe,” he was quoted as saying in the Hong Kong police statement, which was run in the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Forced confessions

Gui MinhaiPeter Dahlin

Their detention has prompted unease among EU officials in China about Beijing’s current crackdown on rights activists and dissidents.

This concern was heightened after Mr Dahlin (35), co-founder of the NGO Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, was paraded on TV in a manner similar to the self-criticisms of the era of Mao Zedong, saying: “I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I apologise sincerely for this and I am very sorry that this ever happened.”

The European Union External Action service said in a statement: “Mr Dahlin’s arrest and detention are part of a worrying trend and call into question China’s respect for the rule of law and for its international human rights obligations. The EU is also concerned by the recent broadcasting of confessions made by EU citizens.”

The German government accused China of breaking the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and said the use of televised confessions was “extremely worrying”.

“From our point of view, this behaviour is a clear attack on human rights standards and highly worrying. We call on the Chinese authorities to observe their legal responsibilities.”

The ongoing crackdown on corruption, combined with increased security amid fears of instability as the economy cools, has seen a revival of self-confession, or jiantao, to underscore the hard-line approach by President Xi Jinping’s government to acts of dissent.